Jim Phillips deserves Clemson honor

by - Senior Writer -

The date was October 24th, 1981, and my dad decided he needed to run errands on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and I decided to tag along for the ride.

My parents were born and raised in Greenville, but I was born in Minnesota and spent most of my formative years in places like Texas and Missouri, and to me, South Carolina was just a place my grandparents lived.

That all changed a little over a year before the above date, when my minister father decided to return to his home state, bringing his bewildered pre-teen son into a strange new world. That particular Saturday, I did what a lot of young people do, and I started fiddling with the radio to see if I could find some suitable music to listen to.

It was while I was switching the dials that I heard what was… to me…sweet music to my ears. Instead of the latest rock hit, however, it was the roar of the Death Valley crowd as Clemson hosted N.C. State. I was a huge sports fan, even though my tastes at that time ran more to Larry Bird and the NBA, the Denver Broncos and Major League Baseball.

I listened to the roar of the crowd, and I heard the passion in the announcers’ voice as he described the action. The names Cliff Austin, Chuck McSwain, Homer Jordan, Terry Kinard and Perry Tuttle were announced over and over, and when my dad reached his first stop, I stayed in the car to listen to the action on the radio, becoming more and more acquainted with the names that would go down in Clemson history.

Stop after stop, and I stayed in the car, listening to Jim Phillips, a consummate professional who knew how to interject passion at just the right spots. It was, “Cliff Austin over the left side and down to the NINE YARD LINE!” and it was, “Terry Kinard over to make the stop on the edge.”

I was hooked.

When Clemson’s 17-7 win over the Wolfpack was complete and he signed off, he announced that the Tigers returned to action the next week against Wake Forest, and the next week I listened to every second of Clemson’s 82-24 win over the Demon Deacons.

At that point in my life, I had never been to Clemson; I didn’t know the tradition, about running down the hill, Frank Howard, Danny Ford or any of that. To me, Clemson was Jim Phillips and the players and games he described in such vivid and beautiful detail. I couldn’t even imagine what Death Valley looked like.

The next week, I hung onto every word in Clemson’s 10-8 win over North Carolina, and like the kids in the Midwest who grew up listening to Harry Caray call St. Louis and then Chicago baseball games, or the kids who grew up listening to the dulcet tones of Vin Scully, Jim Phillips was my only and connection to the Tigers.

As the years passed, I heard of the exploits of Mike Eppley and Kenny Flowers and Terrance Flagler and a host of others, and I listened to Clemson basketball games as Phillips described the action. My parents weren’t and aren’t college football fans or even sports fans, so attending Clemson sporting events wasn’t high on the list of things to do on fall or winter Saturdays. Two years after I first heard about Clemson football, I finally got to attend a game and sat in the upper deck. It was exciting, but I missed the familiar comfort of having Phillips describe the action for me.

Later, what started out as a hobby turned into a passion for me and I decided to get into sports; Dan Foster of the Greenville News was responsible for me beginning my writing career, and I was able to turn that passion into a career. But I was always happiest when I was able to turn on the radio and listen to Phillips describe whatever game was happening that day. I was even enough of a sports junkie to listen to him call Greenville Braves games from not only the old Municipal Stadium but from places such as Orlando and Chattanooga and Knoxville, and I would marvel at just how lucky he was to be involved in sports in such a wonderful way.

As it turns out, I was the lucky one, just because I was able to grow up listening to a true Clemson fan call the sporting events I couldn’t attend.

After I began writing, I was fortunate enough to cover some Greenville Braves games, and one sweltering evening Phillips came over and said he needed to run downstairs, and could someone PLEASE come over and call the action once the station came back from break, in case he wasn’t there? I immediately volunteered, and I must have not screwed it up too bad because he invited me to stay in the booth with him. I knew baseball, understood the game, and I spent many summer evenings sitting beside Phillips inside the close environs of that old press box listening to stories and listening to a master at his craft weave his magic.

In fact, as I look back on my early teen years, the memories of listening to Phillips call those football games on the radio and say those names stand out above almost all others. He WAS Clemson to me, and those calls on the radio and hearing how he drew out the word “TOUCHHHHDOWWWWN” are things I can still hear in my mind today.

His passing left a hole in the Clemson family and on the Clemson broadcasts. There was only one Jim Phillips. And Clemson needs to honor him.

Personally, I think he needs to be placed in Clemson’s Ring of Honor, an old time microphone placed beside his name. He deserves, and his memory needs to be kept alive by all of us who grew up listening to his calls. I understand the rule that says you must have a four-year degree to be considered. I get it.

Someone mentioned naming the press box after Phillips, but the late Bob Bradley already has that honor and deservedly so. But there are actually two press boxes at Clemson – the one for the stats crews and writers, and one for the broadcast crews. The broadcast box sits a level below where the writers sit – so why doesn’t Clemson name the broadcast portion after Jim Phillips, with a large plaque like the one that “Mr. B” has in the writers’ box.

At the very least, a scholarship in Clemson’s communications department needs to be started in his honor and his name, and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Phillips receive a posthumous degree from Clemson, thereby in some way earning the honor of a four-year degree. Would that be possible? I don’t know, but I am willing to lead the charge on this.

Phillips deserves to be honored by the university in some form or fashion, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later. For the sake of his memory, for the sake of his family that needs to know how important he was for all of us, and for the sake of the little boy in all of us who hung on his every word.

Rate this Story:
65 votes

Send Feedback to David Hood: Email | Comment
Post your comments!
Subject (Replies: 37) Author
Front Page Story: Jim Phillips deserves Clemson honor
TigerNet News
One point I was going to make about this yesterday was that
El Swann®
"hearing his voice in person was so surreal"
Re: "hearing his voice in person was so surreal"
Re: "hearing his voice in person was so surreal"
Re: "hearing his voice in person was so surreal"
Re: "hearing his voice in person was so surreal"
Re: Front Page Story: Jim Phillips deserves Clemson honor
Great article
David, it's stories like this that really communicate
One Clemson
Awesome ! I'll gladly donate to this cause !***
Danny Ford first, Jim Phillips second
Re: Front Page Story: Jim Phillips deserves Clemson honor
Honoring Jim Phillips
How about Brian Dawkins?***
He is the voice.....
Re: Front Page Story: Jim Phillips deserves Clemson honor
Re: Front Page Story: Jim Phillips deserves Clemson honor
I share your fond memories
"There's a lotta orange in South Bend, Indiana".....
There was an album out after '78 season w/ great calls by
Re: There was an album out after '78 season w/ great calls by
I wore that album out as a kid, wish I could find one
Re: "There's a lotta orange in South Bend, Indiana".....
Re: Front Page Story: Jim Phillips deserves Clemson honor
As I said yesterday, HOF - Yes, but not ROH.
JIm was a nice guy, but have you lately listened?
Re: JIm was a nice guy, but have you lately listened?
Re: JIm was a nice guy, but have you lately listened?
Jim Phillips, Clemson Tiger Announcer-legend
Like Jim, but he was no Larry Munson and I dislike uga.
Sometimes in life, I have learned, a wise man knows
He never considered himself a great broadcaster
Very well stated....***
you probsbly prefer the Todd Ellis style of broadcast
Re: Front Page Story: Jim Phillips deserves Clemson honor
I've been saying this for years...

WATCH: Xavier Thomas with impressive sack

Grantham happy to be home after seeing Barcelona terrorist attack

WATCH: Brownell and players discuss Barcelona attack

Georgia Tech dismisses leading rusher

Clemson in top group for Elite 2019 OL

Clemson leads ACC football topping Power 5 ranks

Three Tigers ranked in ESPN's Top 70 fantasy football players

All signs pointing to Kelly Bryant starting at quarterback in the opener

Former Clemson DE waived by Titans
Sign Up for E-Mail News Alerts
Daily Digest